Cricket: Fraser aiming for top

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 150-3 v Yorkshire

A day of incessant rain put paid to any prospect of play here, further frustrating Middlesex's attempt to build on their Championship lead. Only 41 overs have been possible so far, with three days now having been washed out completely.

Even within their own dressing-room, Middlesex's success so far has been unexpected. Having lost seven senior players in five years, they finished ninth in last season's Britannic Assurance table and those who remained were anticipating another summer of quiet transition, the seasoned England bowler Angus Fraser among them.

"I didn't think we would be in the bottom six but neither did I expect us to be in the top six," Fraser said. "So our success so far has been a pleasant surprise.

"The main thing is that we have bowled well. Both myself and Don Bennett have tried to drill into the younger lads the importance of bowling in the right areas and we have been pleased with the response.

"Jamie Hewitt in particular has come on. He has a nice high action and he swings the ball. He does not always get it right but he is only 21 and in a year or so he will be more consistent. He looks a good prospect." Hewitt leads the way among the bowlers with 34 Championship wickets.

Another bonus, meanwhile, has been the smooth handing over of the captaincy from Mike Gatting to Mark Ramprakash, who has slipped into the role as if born to it - winning three of his first four games - and with not a ripple of disturbance to a superb season with the bat that has so far yielded approaching 800 first-class runs.

"Ramps could develop into a very good captain," Fraser said. "He has matured in the last few years and takes the responsibility very seriously. He is thoughtful, considerate and not afraid to make hard decisions. I like the fact that he tries to appreciate the bowler's point of view, which cannot be said of every batsman who becomes a captain.

"And he seems to be one of those batsmen, like Mike Atherton and Graham Gooch, who thrive on the responsibility. He is the one who is expected to perform for us and he hasn't disappointed at all. I've not seen him looking better."